Hop on as I take you on a tour through my process of creating hand-dyed, handspun art yarn.
(Please keep in mind, method of madness varies per project.)
Step 1: Scour fiber
Here I have 8 ounces of all natural New Zealand Merino wool roving. I soak the fiber in warm water and synthrapol for 30 minutes, to remove any dirt or oils locked in the fiber.
This particular collection of handspun will be colored with natural dye.
Step 2: Pre-mordant my fiber
Recipe: 3.5 tsp alum, 3 tsp cream of tartar, 8 qts water
Simmer fiber for one hour (+). Let fiber cool to room temperature overnight. The mordant allows the fiber to absorb and retain the dye color.
Step 3: Rinse and re-wet fiber
Rinse away the mordant saturated water and let the fiber rest in clean water. The fiber follicles are ready to capture the dye.
Step 4: Prepare dye stuffs
Dye #1: Osage Orange (Maclura Pomifera)
Recipe: 1 oz osage orange, 1 qt water, to 1 oz fiber
Bundle osage orange in a square piece of cheese cloth. Soak the bundle in 1 qt of water overnight, to expel the dye. Transfer contents into a pot; bring to a rapid boil followed by a 1 hour simmer. The cheese cloth will keep the dye powder together so that it doesn’t get caught and tangled within the fiber.
Remove the dye pouch and add wet roving. As the fiber simmers in the pot, gently move it around to distribute the dye evenly. Once an hour of simmering is up, turn off the heat and allow the fiber to cool down in the pot. Next, carefully move the fiber through a series of clean water buckets. Each new water bucket the fiber enters, should be closer and closer to room temperature. Once the roving is no longer bleeding the dye color, line dry it for 24 hours.
Dye #2: Logwood (Haematoxylum Campechianum)
Recipe: 1 oz logwood, 4 qt water, to 1 oz fiber
Soak the logwood overnight. In the morning bring the soaked logwood and its water to a hard boil for 1 hour. Strain out the logwood and keep the purple water. Add the wet roving and simmer for 1 hour. Next, allow all to cool down. Finally, repeat the same washing process as mentioned earlier and then line dry the dyed roving.
Dye #3: Brazilwood (Caesalpinia Echinata)
Recipe: 1 oz brazilwood chips, 1 qt water, to 1 oz roving
Soak the brazilwood overnight. Bring the brazilwood and soaked water to a boil and simmer. Bring the temperature back up to a vigorous boil for 1 hour. Turn the heat off and strain out the brazilwood. Let dye water cool to room temperature and the add wet roving. Simmer gently (30 minutes-lighter shade or 45 minutes-darker shade). Allow to cool, repeat rinsing procedure, and line dry.
Dye #4: Madder Root (Rubia Tinctorum Rubiaceae)
Recipe: 1/2 oz madder root, 1 qt water, to 1 oz fiber
Soak the madder root over night. Heat the soaked madder root and water on low/medium for 1 hour. Slowly bring to a boil. Boil hard for 10 minutes. Remove everything from the hot pot and strain out the madder root. Allow the dye bath to cool. Add the roving and simmer for 45 minutes.
Allow contents to cool, repeat rinsing procedure, and line dry.
With all natural dyes…
*Dye contents and dye water may be stored and re-used for about 2 weeks.
*Iron powder may be added to the dye bath to darken the dyes shade.
*Dye baths with iron added to them must be disposed of within 4 hours.
*To lighten a dye color either add more water to the already boiled dye bath or use less dye substrate.
My dry pile of naturally dyed roving!
Step #4: Drum card
I have dyed my roving but before I spin, I like to brush everything through a drum carder. This step fluffs and aligns the individual fibers. It is essential to making a quality yarn. For extra lofty yarns I drum card my fiber several extra times.
My roving has been carded into beautiful fuller bodies called fiber batts.
From left to right: osage orange, madder root, madder root with iron, brazilwood, logwood with iron, and logwood.
Step 5: Blend
Now the artistic hand comes into play. Time to fiddle with color compositions and drum card separate tones into funky new fiber batts!
Step 6: Spin!
To create most of my art yarns, I will spin several single yarns that I then ply together onto another bobbin. By plying anywhere from 2-4 yarns, I am able to create a thread that is most sculptural. With this particular skein, you can see below in the photos my first, single spun yarn and then my plying techniques used to create more volume, structure, and texture.
Step 7: The Niddy-Noddy
Once the yarn is spun, I wrap it onto a niddy-noddy, which shapes the yarn into a skein. I keep my yarn on the niddy-noddy for 3-7 days, as it continues to set the tension of my yarn.
To finish, I wash the yarn and allow it to dry, under tension.
The name of this skein collection is “Harmony”: